The Prince’s Trust, the youth charity founded by the Prince of Wales, has become the latest organisation to distance itself from Chinese telecoms group Huawei amid spiralling concerns from western governments over espionage and the security of the company’s equipment.
In a statement to the Financial Times the Trust said it would not be accepting any new donations from Huawei “in light of public concerns”. The decision came after the 12-year relationship was placed under review this week by the charity’s ethical fundraising committee.
In response Huawei said it was disappointed, blaming “ill-informed and unfounded discourse” about the company.
“We have the greatest respect for the excellent work it [the Trust] does with young people,” said Huawei. “We are proud of our 10-year partnership and of course hope we can work together again in the future.”
The Chinese group, founded by Ren Zhengfei, a former People’s Liberation Army officer, has been at the centre of a growing storm as the US, which has already barred the company from its telecoms networks, urged European and western allies to lock the group out of the development of future 5G networks.
Western suspicions of the group have been fuelled by the detention in Canada last month of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and the daughter of Mr Ren, on a US extradition request, and by the arrest of a Huawei executive in Poland on allegations of spying for Chinese intelligence.
In the UK, the National Cyber Security Centre, part of GCHQ, the communications intelligence agency, has highlighted failures in Huawei’s equipment and software engineering that it says could make British telecoms networks vulnerable to cyber attacks.
In response Huawei has already committed £2bn to overhaul its systems and address UK government concerns. Last week Mr Ren used a rare public appearance to dismiss security fears, insisting he had never received a request from the Chinese government to provide intelligence.
Despite those efforts, the University of Oxford last week became the first UK institution to cut ties with the company, saying it had decided to stop accepting research funds and philanthropic donations. This dealt a blow to Huawei’s long-term public relations effort to win wider support for its business ambitions in the UK and Europe.
A spokesperson for the Prince’s Trust did not give specific reasons for the decision to stop taking donations from Huawei but said there had been no prior discussions with UK security officials or the government.
The charity was founded in 1976 by Prince Charles to raise money for projects aimed at improving the lives of disadvantaged young people in the UK.
Huawei became an official patron in 2016, nearly a decade after it started supporting the charity. The Trust said that since 2007 Huawei had donated a total of £490,000 to fund support programmes that help young people in the UK to move into education, employment or training. A large part of the company’s annual donation comes from an annual winter concert hosted by Huawei in support of the Trust.
Although he remains president of the charity, the Prince of Wales is not directly involved in its decision making on sponsors and patrons, which include some of the biggest names in British business, such as Marks and Spencer, Barclays and BAE Systems.
But the prince has avoided some state visits by Chinese leaders because of his views on the country’s humans rights record and Beijing’s treatment of Tibet. The prince also described China’s Communist party leaders as “appalling old waxworks” in a diary entry made during a 1997 visit to Hong Kong for the UK handover of the territory to China.
Get alerts on Huawei Technologies Co Ltd when a new story is published